Australia’s Matt Wearn wins Laser Gold at Tokyo Olympics

Matt Wearn has maintained Australia’s Olympic dominance in the Laser, today winning the nation’s third consecutive gold medal in the class.

Wearn overcame a nervous start to the regatta to completely dominate the middle and late stages and had the Gold wrapped up in advance of today’s Medal Race, only having to sail and finish to claim his prize.

“Probably relief,” was the 25-year-old’s first emotion after securing the Olympic crown. “It has been quite a long journey and a particularly stressful week. It wasn’t the ideal start to a regatta, so I couldn’t have felt better than locking away a gold medal before the Medal Race.”

Wearn got away poorly at the Olympic regatta posting a 17th and 28th in his first two races. The Western Australian quickly put those behind him, and from the mid-stages of the regatta, secured six consecutive top-four finishes. These set up his victory lap in today’s Medal Race.

At what stage did Wearn know he has secured the Gold?

“In the last fleet race, I had a vague idea when I was rounding that last top mark, I was in that leading group and saw Pavlos (Kontides) was reasonably deep. Hermann (Tomasgaard) was up with me, but I had a reasonable points gap on him as well,” the new Olympic champion said.

“That was probably when it started to feel a little bit more real, but it wasn’t until I crossed the line and confirmed it with Blackers (coach Michael Blackburn) that we were 22 points in front and had sealed the deal.”

The man behind Australia’s three consecutive Laser gold medals is master coach and Sydney 2000 Olympics Laser bronze medallist, Michael Blackburn.

Matt Wearn arrives back at the dock a new gold medallist – Sailing Energy/World Sailing pic

“Quite a thrill to get it done early,” Blackburn said before today’s Medal Race. “It has been a goal of mine to have someone win the regatta before the Medal Race, which can be a bit iffy sometimes. To get it done in such a good style and quite unexpectedly is quite the thrill.”

Blackburn will now go down as an Olympic coaching great. He credits the rest of the Australian Sailing Team Laser squad, and a fake review conducted 12 months ago, with helping today’s win.

“Around this time last year, we pretended the Games were over and Matt had finished fourth,” Blackburn said. “We did a review based on that concept. I got the other guys in the squad to help, given their intimate knowledge of how Matt sails, and that review highlighted that we needed to tune up the light wind skills.

“We worked on that specifically over the past 12 months and that probably made a 20-30 percent improvement in light wind execution and speed. That made a real difference in the 4 to 5 knot races here at the Games.”

Choosing your favourite gold medal would be like choosing your favourite child, but Blackburn acknowledges that this one is a bit different.

“I’ve been thinking about that a little bit. Each of Tom (Slingsby – 2012), Tom (Burton – 2016) and Matt are supremely dedicated, special athletes, who worked really hard towards this goal.

“The difference this time was the lack of knowing where we were at on the international scene, and with Matt being a first-time Olympian, there were extra challenges and stresses around that which we had to manage.”

Being the competitive sailor he is, Wearn was not content just to sail around the course in the Medal Race. Despite starting further down the line so as not to interfere with the rest of the fleet, with the silver and bronze medals still to be decided, Wearn finished second.

Australia’s Men’s 470 team of Mat Belcher and Will Ryan had another dream day today, posting a win and a second place in their two races. They hold a 19-point lead heading into the final day of fleet races tomorrow.

Mat Belcher and Will Ryan are hoping to emulate Matt Wearn’s feat – Sailing Energy/World Sailing pic

“We felt like we were in a really good rhythm (before yesterday’s day off), so all you want to do is try to keep it going,” said Belcher, who won Men’s 470 Gold with Malcolm Page at the London 2012 Games and Silver with Ryan at the Rio Olympics in 2016.

“We don’t usually have days off at a regatta, so we had a lot of time to think. To come away with a 1 and a 2 today is something we are really proud of.”

Belcher and Ryan know that if they can extend their lead to 20 points after tomorrow’s racing, then they can do what their great friend Wearn did and secure Gold ahead of their Medal Race on Wednesday.

Elsewhere today Australia’s Nacra 17 team of Jason Waterhouse and Lisa Darmanin (4th) and Finn sailor Jake Lilley (7th) both qualified for their Medal Races on Tuesday.

The sailing component of the Olympic Games continues tomorrow with the final two fleet races in the Men’s and Women’s 470 and the Medal Races for the 49er and 49erFX classes.

Australian Sailing would like to acknowledge and thank the Australian Olympic Committee for the work done in managing the athletes and staff of the Australian Olympic Sailing Selection at the postponed Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games.

Tokyo 2020 Olympic standings:

Laser (35 boats) – Competition finished
1st: Matt Wearn (AUS) 17, (28), 2, 4, 2, 2, 1, 1, 12, 8, MR: 2 – 53 pts (GOLD)
2nd: Hermann Tomasgaard (NOR) 3, (18), 15, 2, 6, 8, 10, 5, (19), 4, MR: 8 – 82 pts
3rd: Tonci Stipanovic (CRO) 15, 6, 3, (22), 13, 4, 5, 11, 7, 10, MR: 14 – 85 pts

Men’s 470 (19 boats)
1st: Mat Belcher & Will Ryan (AUS) 2, (5), 1, 1, 4, 3, 2, 1 – 14 pts
2nd: Jordi Xammar & Nicolas Rodriguez Garcia-Paz (ESP) 10, 1, 10, 6, (14), 1, 3, 2 – 33 pts
3rd: Anton Dahlberg (SWE) 1, (15), 8, 5, 6, 11, 1, 5 – 37 pts
3rd: Luke Patience & Chris Grube (GBR) 3, 8, 2, 4, (10), 5, 9, 6 – 37 pts

Nacra 17 (20 boats)
1st: Ruggero Tita & Caterina Banti (ITA) 1, 3, 1, 2, (5), 1, (8), 3, 2, 2, 1, 2 – 23 pts
2nd: John Gimson & Anna Burnet (GBR) (7), 5, 2, 1, 1, 2, 5, (10) , 1, 5, 2, 4 – 35 pts
3rd: Paul Kohlhoff & Alicia Stuhlemmer (GER) 5, 1, 7, 3, 3, (11), 3, 2, 8, 3, 6, 6 – 47 pts
4th: Jason Waterhouse & Lisa Darmanin (AUS) 2, (11), 4, 4, 7, 8, 1, 5, 4, 6, 5, 8 – 54 pts

Finn (19 boats)
1st: Giles Scott (GBR) (9), 9, 1, 1, 1, 1, 6, 1, 1, 7 – 28 pts
2nd: Zsombor Berecz (HUN) 2, 2, (9), 4, 6, 7, 3, 5, 4, 4 – 37 pts
3rd: Joan Cardona (ESP) 3, 3, 5, 3, 2, 3, (13), 7, 5, 8 – 39 pts
7th: Jake Lilley (AUS) 10, 8, 4, 11, 7, 9, (15), 6, 2, 6 – 63 pts

You can follow live tracking of the races on the Australian Sailing Team website:

Michael Martin/Australian Sailing

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